Dish: Ttukbaegi Bulgogi
Place: Ka Won Korean Restaurant, Lynnwood
Price: $7.99 lunch, $8.99 dinner
In the bowl: Per the menu: “Marinated beef tenderloin, sliced rice cake, vegetables, and clear noodles are cooked in beef rib broth. It is served in earthenware pot.”
Supporting cast/What to do: The order comes with a selection of banchan and rice. (11 banchan dishes for free, as compared to what I had to pay for the last time I ate Korean food right in Seattle.) The server said that some people put the rice into the pot with the bulgogi, but I prefer to eat it on the side.
Noodling around: There are a variety of naengmyeon bowls on the menu, but if you’re looking for noodles of a different sort, this is “A4″ on the menu.
Ka Won is one of the more popular places for bulgogi, which is marinated meat (beef, chicken, or pork) that is typically grilled with onions (or scallions, or sometimes mushrooms), with cellophane noodles added in certain regions of Korea. When there’s leftover bulgogi, a great use for the meat and sauce is to make ttukbaegi bulgogi. It’s quick and easy to prepare.
A ttukbaegi is a clay pot, making this dish a type of hot pot, with the bulgogi sharing the spotlight with shimeji mushrooms, green onions, rice cake slices, and garland chrysanthemum. (Note that spinach is often featured as the greens for this dish.) It’s a beefy dish, though the broth itself is not very heavy, with the bulgogi adding a little bit of sweetness to the mix.
The clear noodles that the menu references are from starch, and known as glass or cellophane noodles. In Korean cuisine, they’re called dangmyun, and are typically made from sweet potato starch. Often cut in half to make them more manageable, they’re rather flavorless, serving to add texture rather than taste.
If you want more: With rice and banchan, you’ve got plenty for a meal, but if you want to feast further, I recommend asked for an order of Mandu ($9.99 for 8), or Korean dumplings. They appear on the menu just above Ttukbaegi Bulgogi as Kawon manduguk (A3), which are dumplings in beef broth. But as you’ve already got soup, get them steamed (jjinmandu) or, even better, grilled or fried (gunmandu). Filled with beef and zucchini (and a little cabbage), they’re incredibly crisp and delicious dipped in a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar.
Be aware/beware: You might have a singing server. Keep in mind that she’s singing, which is a good sign, as she might come across as a bit blunt at first. Be patient and smile. While she might be rushing around, she’s actually quite friendly, helpful, and concerned about quality of your experience. And if she isn’t quite singing as she sashays around the dining room floor, she’ll likely announce each of your dishes in a singsong voice as she drops them off.
First published in Seattle Weekly’s Voracious on July 9, 2012.